||Yarrow Flower/Yarrow Herb
Achillea millefolium (Botanical)
Millefolii flos/Millefolii herba
Yarrow is the name given to a number of subspecies of Achillea
millefolium that have a virtually identical appearance but different numbers
of chromosomes. The taxonomy of Achillea millefolium is inconsistent, and
subspecies as well as related species are variously categorized as Achillea
millefolium. Subspecies of yarrow are found in many regions, particularly in
eastern, southeastern, and central Europe.
Legend has it that the botanical grouping, or genus, of yarrow was named
Achillea because Achilles, the Greek mythical figure, used yarrow to
staunch the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Popular in European folk medicine,
yarrow has traditionally been used to treat menstrual ailments and bleeding
hemorrhoids. This plant is a distant botanical relative of German (or Hungarian)
chamomile and English chamomile, and it has some of the same chemical
constituents found in the two chamomiles. As in the case of chamomile, yarrow is
a common herbal remedy for bloating, flatulence, and mild gastrointestinal
Chamomile and yarrow belong to the Asteraceae, or daisy, family. Plants in
this family contain a bluish-colored essential oil that owes its color to the
presence of intensely blue azulene derivatives. The azulene constituents and
other active principles in the volatile oil of yarrow have anti-inflammatory
While the chemistry of various subspecies of yarrow has not been fully
elucidated, some of the therapeutic claims for this plant have been documented.
Pharmacological studies indicate that yarrow has diaphoretic
(perspiration-promoting), antipyretic, hypotensive, astringent, diuretic, and
urinary antiseptic activity.
Yarrow grows as a simple, erect, and hairy stem that reaches a height of 0.1
to 1.5 m. It flourishes in a sunny and warm habitat, and is frequently found
along meadows and roadsides, as well as on dry, sunny slopes. The entire plant
(with the exception of the fruit) is draped in white, silky appressed hairs,
which gives it a white hairy-like appearance. Growing from underground runners
are tough, angular, horizontal stems that bear flowers.
Yarrow blooms between June and September. The flowers are typically white,
but either pink or pale purple infloresences are common in species found in
mountain areas. The flowers are composite and densely arranged in flattened,
umbel-like clusters. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate, and multi-pinnate
with a feathery appearance.
Part Used/Pharmaceutical Designation
- Flowers (flowerhead)
- Whole herb
- Above-ground parts
Volatile oil (0.2% to 1.0%, components are variable depending on
strain/subspecies; e.g., chamazulene [blue, 6% to 19%, maximum 40%], camphor,
beta-pinene, 1,8-cineole, carophyllene, alpha-thujone). Sesquiterpene lactones
(primarily guaianolides, e.g., achillicin, achillin, millefin, millefolide;
sesquiterpenes may be converted to chamazulene [proazulenes] through steam
distillation); flavonoids, acids, alkaloids/bases (e.g., betonicine, stachydrine
[pyrrolidine]), polyynes, alkamids, tannins, unknown cyanogenetic compound,
Commercial preparations are made from both the herb (fresh or dried
above-ground parts) and dried yarrow flowers of Achillea millefolium.
Plant material is harvested during the flowering season and then dried.
Essential oil preparations should not be stored in synthetic containers. Yarrow
drug contains volatile oil which must be protected from light and moisture.
Yarrow is a component in multi-herbal formulations of two gastrointestinal teas
listed in the German Standard Registration of phytopharmaceutical products.
- Internal: cold, fever, measles, essential hypertension, cerebral and
coronary thromboses, amenorrhea, dysentery, diarrhea; whole plant decoction used
for bleeding piles, kidney disorders
- External: wound healing, skin inflammations; sitz (partial) bath for
pain and cramps in lower female pelvis, liver ailments
Conditions: used as diaphoretic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic,
hemostatic, hypotensive, emmenagogue (induces menstruation), choleretic
(stimulates production of bile by the liver), cholagogue (stimulates flow of
bile to duodenum), antibacterial astringent, antispasmodic, gallbladder
Clinical applications: loss of appetite, dyspeptic (digestive) complaints,
liver and gallbladder complaints, hypertension, menorrhagia, irritable bowel
In in vitro experiments, ethanolic extracts of yarrow showed moderate
antibacterial activity, with the sesquiterpene lactone fraction also exhibiting
antibacterial properties. In in vivo studies, an aqueous extract of true
yarrow produced anti-inflammatory activity in paw edema models of mouse and rat,
and had topical anti-inflammatory activity in rabbits. In general,
anti-inflammatory properties have been associated with azulenes, the major
component of the essential oil.
Yarrow extract administered to mice at a dose over twice that needed for
anti-inflammatory effect showed diuretic activity. The diuretic action has been
attributed to terpinen-4-ol. The essential oil also yielded CNS depressant
activity by reducing spontaneous activity of mice and by lowering body
temperature of rats. In test animals, the volatile oil from yarrow prolonged
barbiturate-induced sleep and inhibited pentetrazole-induced convulsions.
Another chief constituent, achilleine (0.5 g/kg IV) displayed hemostatic
effects by reducing blood-clotting time by 32% in rabbits for 45 minutes and was
devoid of observable toxic side effects. Azulene compounds in the
flavonoid-containing fraction of yarrow may account for the antispasmodic
activity of this plant on isolated rabbit intestine. Other research suggests
that azulene-related constituents such as chamazulene and prochamazulenes also
have anti-inflammatory properties. Additional investigations reveal that the
basic fraction of yarrow extracts (containing alkaloid/base) exhibited
antipyretic and hypotensive effects, while the sesquiterpene lactone fraction
elicited cytotoxic action.
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
- Dried herb: 1 to 4 g tid as infusion or capsules
- Extract (1:1, 25% ethanol): 1 to 4 ml tid
- Tincture (1:5, 40% ethanol): 2 to 4 ml tid
- Yarrow flowers, or equivalent preparations: 3 g per day as
- Sitz baths: 100 g yarrow per 20 liters (5 gal) of
Although yarrow is described as nontoxic, it can cause allergic reactions in
While yarrow is reportedly free of adverse side effects when administered in
designated therapeutic dosages, some individuals have allergic reactions to this
plant. Yarrow has a potential for sensitization.
Yarrow should be avoided during pregnancy since it has abortifacient
properties and affects the menstrual cycle. Lactating women should avoid
No clinically significant interactions between yarrow and conventional
medications are known to have been reported in the literature to date, including
the German Commission E monograph (Blumenthal 2000).
|Regulatory and Compendial
Yarrow is listed in the General Sale List (GSL) of approved therapeutic
agents in the United Kingdom. It is listed as an approved herb by the German
Commission E, and accepted in Belgium and France for specific indications. The
Council of Europe approves yarrow as a natural source of food flavoring
(category N2) but prohibits certain concentrations of alpha and beta thujone in
foods and alcoholic beverages. In the United States, yarrow is not approved as a
food additive, and alcoholic beverages containing yarrow must be thujoid-free.
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Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:419-423.
Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston,
Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:223-224.
Bradley P, ed. British Herbal Compendium. Vol. I. Dorset, Great
Britain: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992:227-229.
Chandler RF, Hooper SN, Harvey MJ. Ethnobotany and phytochemistry of yarrow,
Achillea millefolium, Compositae. Econ Botany.
Goldberg AS, Mueller EC, Eigen E, Desalva S. Isolation of anti-inflammatory
principles from Achillea millefolium (Compositae). J Pharm Sci.
Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol. II. New York, NY: Dover; 1971:863-865.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines.
Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998:604-606.
Kudrzycka-Bicloszabska FW, Glowniak K. Pharmacodynamic properties of oleum
chamomillae and oleum millefolii. Diss Pharm Phamacol.
Moskalenko SA. Preliminary screening of far-Eastern ethnomedicinal plant for
antibacterial activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 1986;15:231-259.
Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:271-273.
Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler V. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to
Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer; 1998:182-183, 239
Shipochliev T, Fournadjiev G. Spectrum of the antiinflammatory effect of
Arctostaphylos uva ursi and Achillea millefolium. Probl Vutr
Thomson WA. Medicines from the Earth: A Guide to Healing Plants.
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Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and
Related Remedies. 3rd ed. Binghampton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press;
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
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